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November 26, 2014

The Only Progressive Guide to Thanksgiving Political Arguments You'll Need

From Joe Limey.

In the great progressive spirit, here are a few tips on how to talk to -- and morally improve -- your family this Thanksgiving:

1. Your crazy uncle complains in passing that the construction on Redlands Avenue is limiting the flow of traffic to his hardware store, and wonders if the job could be completed more quickly.

This must not be allowed to stand. Ask your uncle if he's an anarchist and if he has heard of Somalia. If you missed Politics 101 at Oberlin, refer to the Fact Cards that you have printed out from Vox.com and explain patiently that the government is the one thing that we all belong to and that the worry that it is "too big" or "too centralized" or "too slow to achieve basic tasks" has a long association with neo-Confederate causes.

Meanwhile there's this:


Which called to mind this article on progressive bullshit I've been wanting to link for two weeks.

"Bullshit" is American English's assertion, maximally succinct and vigorous, that a contention is factually preposterous or logically absurd. According to philosophy professor Harry Frankfurt, however, the "essence of bullshit is not that it is false but that it is phony." His slender volume devoted to the subject, On Bullshit, invites us to think of a Fourth of July orator "who goes on bombastically about 'our great and blessed country, whose Founding Fathers under divine guidance created a new beginning for mankind.'" The speakerís point is not "to deceive anyone concerning American history." Rather,
what he cares about is what people think of him. He wants them to think of him as a patriot, as someone who has deep thoughts and feelings about the origins and the mission of our country, who appreciates the importance of religion, who is sensitive to our history, whose pride in that history is combined with humility before God, and so on.

It's difficult to banish the glum suspicion that life in the 21st century, for all its economic and technological benefits, necessitates putting up with much more bullshit than our ancestors had to.

What I can't stand is the endless posturing -- it's not that Ezra Klein's statement that this is an "excellent" cover is false, per se. I don't really care one way or the other if it's "excellent."

Though it's not precisely original, if we're going to debate its purported excellence:


No, the problem is that the statement does not invite us to decide whether it is true or false. The truth or falsity of the statement itself is not the point.

The statement in fact is a hollowed-out shell inside which is smuggled the real statement:

That Ezra Klein is bien pensant given to Thinking Serious Thoughts About Race and Such.

That is what drives me crazy about modern discourse. So little of it is actually designed to advance a proposition. So much of it is designed to advance The Speaker.

Modern speech is insanely "performative." Modern speech is marked not by its focus on the statement itself but on the act of making the statement, and how that act (allegedly) credits the speaker.

This shit must be called out until it stops.

We live in a Narcissistic Age. This era's defining vice is Vanity.

And we cannot allow these narcissistic headcases to get away with disguising constant self-flattery as alleged "political" speech about ideas external to them.



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posted by Ace at 03:47 PM

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